If you haven't heard of Joe Ayala and Justin Shreeve by now, it's time for a wake-up call. These two guys are at the top level of the motorsports media game, traveling around the world to bring you the very best in drifting photo and video coverage. But when they're not catching up on sleep on a Trans-Atlantic flight to Norway for Gatebil, sampling the street cuisine of China during World Drift Series, or just making a quick trip to the "local" Formula Drift rounds all over the United States, they like to spend time in their hometown of Medford, OR, working on one of the coolest pairs of S13s we've ever seen.
When they first met at a mutual friend's house in 2007, Joe was driving an RSX and Justin (embarrassed to admit it) was in a Prelude. Justin really liked Joe's RSX, so the two got to talking. Soon after that Justin got his S13. It was completely stock, just another champagne coupe with pop-ups. Joe and Justin would occasionally pass by each other in Medford, but hadn't really become friends yet. The next year, Joe would be helping plan the very first Drift Evolution event in Medford. One night he randomly bumped into Justin at Subway, and invited him to the event. Justin jumped at the chance to drift legally instead of settling for doing donuts at the local movie theater. Since Justin was also into skateboarding and making skating videos, he naturally thought it would be fun to make a drifting video at Drift Evo. And since Joe's new FC project wasn't done yet, he was taking photos. It was a media match made in heaven.
Immediately hungry for bigger things, that same summer Justin went to Sonoma to shoot Formula D and check out some pro cars up close. Excited about the future, Joe sold his FC project and picked up his own S13, a red fastback. In 2009 Joe got to experience Formula D Sonoma for himself, and then teamed up with Justin on another Drift Evo video. With exposure to top-level drifting and top-level media production, the stage was set for big changes in Medford.
Southern Oregon is not known as one of the hotbeds of automotive culture in the United States. At first it seems like the kind of place where you'd expect the occasional hot rod or lifted truck to cruise by, maybe a Civic or two, and nothing more. But then you'll pass a lowered Corolla or 240 with reasonably proper drift style, something that might seem more at home in Los Angeles. Since Justin and Joe are so well known and well traveled, they have a certain influence in Medford and the other towns in the Rogue Valley. I had the opportunity to attend a Drift Evo event at the Jackson County Fairgrounds last year, and can attest that Medford definitely has a strong drifting community. The people are nice and helpful, and their cars-while typical of budget drifters in bigger cities-are light-years ahead of where they might have been if Joe and Justin weren't around.
While I was up at Drift Evo, Justin was leading a tandem train, followed by Ryan Kado, Joe, and Mannerz Mojarro bringing up the rear. Justin spun out and Ryan, trying to avoid him, spun out too and slammed his quarter-panel into Justin's front bumper. Joe hit Ryan's front bumper with his own wheel and fender, and Mannerz escaped the catastrophe. The crash broke Joe's tie rod, and even though there was a big competition the next day, he didn't seem to care. A broken car meant more time to shoot photos! Justin, however, was a bit more upset. Even though his car was still driveable, he broke almost every part on his Silvia's front, including the hood. He was sad not because he'd have to replace the parts, but because he had broken parts his girlfriend, Katelyn, had helped him buy in the first place.
For a few years, the two S13s looked fairly stock. Joe had swapped in an SR20 and Justin was still rocking the KA24. Justin's car had the Silvia front and he painted it flat black like so many other project cars. Joe had moved to San Francisco and Justin to Portland, but they'd come back home as often as they could to work on their cars and drive at Drift Evo. By 2010 they were getting to be big names in the U.S. drifting scene for consistently putting out high-quality videos. In 2011 they started a video project called Tandem of Die (it was a typo but they ran with it), documenting the entire 2011 season of Formula Drift, ripe with candid moments, things that should be outtakes, and way too many shenanigans for their own good. The teasers for Tandem of Die launched them into the upper echelons of the media community, and they decided it was finally time to make their cars into more than just missiles and use them to promote the Tandem of Die DVD. Taking inspiration from early 2000s Japanese street drifting style, especially cars of guys like Mitsuru Haruguchi and Joel Hedges, they started collecting parts like crazy. They wanted the cars to look as gangster as possible, and for them that meant big wheels, body kits, over-fenders, and wings. They had some fun on the Internet, posting photos of their cars with all the parts on but with no paint, so nothing matched. They thought it was hilarious that people could hate on such awesome cars that were obviously unfinished. I don't care how many colors a car is, when it's so low that a wedding ring won't fit under the front bumper and it's tucking 17-inch Work wheels under big over-fenders, it's a thing of beauty. Knowing that they would be painted soon was just a bonus. As the builds got more and more serious, more people started to take notice. For example, Chris and John Corvinus, brothers from Northern California and owners of Cor Integration, produce big-angle knuckles, named "Chuckles" after the technique of chucking a car as hard as you can into a drift. Joe and Justin made friends with the Corvinuses at a Thunderdrift track day and now Justin rocks a pair of Chuckles on his car. Joe and Justin like to support their friends and local shops as much as they can. Justin got a hold of a Toyota 1JZ so he'd finally be able to keep up with Joe (and because he liked the sound), they took their cars to PSI in Portland to get them tuned. Joe ended up with 290 hp and Justin edged ahead with 301. Once they had all the exterior parts they needed, it was off to Bigger Hammer, a local Medford body shop. Nitto signed on as their tire supplier, since the plan is to drive the cars to all the West Coast Formula Drift rounds as well as drift at Drift Evo, Thunderdrift at Thunderhill Raceway, the Jackson County Sports Park kart track in White City, OR, not too far from Medford, and Pat's Acres Racing Complex, in Canby, just south of Portland. They're going to need a lot of tires. Now that the cars were show worthy, that meant no more thrashing, right? Wrong. The guys are having just as much fun as ever, shredding tires and breaking body kits. They're not showing any signs of slowing down either.